It can be hard and painful at first, but a new and improved life after your separation is often the reward, if you are willing to do the work.
“New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings”, said the wise Lao Tzu.
As a mindful separation consultant, I see many women who, during separation, experience a great sense of loss. Loss of being part of a couple, loss of the ‘normal’ family module, loss of the white picket fence fantasy, loss of the ‘happily ever after’ notion, loss of the dreams they once had, and loss of identity as a wife and mother. In my experience, women are more likely than men to give their power away in relationships when they take on the role of wife and mother. These roles can play a strong part in defining a woman’s identity in a relationship. When the relationship ends, women can ultimately feel the loss of the identity and a sense of failure.
Loss and our personal story
That overall sense of loss can take a toll and create feelings of enormous shame and failure if women cling to their old identity to define their future. It can be really tough; I too have experienced this. My loss led me down the whole mindful separation path. Shedding the skin of your old identity before you take on a new one can take time. I can honestly say, from both personal & professional experience, that one of the best tools in dealing with a separation is learning how to let go of the past and embrace an unknown future.
We all have a ‘story’ to tell, and we all have to live our lives each day according to our highest values and truth. We will never move forward if all we do is conclude that we have failed because we have not lived up to our expectations. One of the things that can stuff our story right up is thinking about what we expected for our own lives in the past, and concluding that we have failed when those plans go awry. It’s happened to me and I’m sure it’s happened to you. However, this is not failure. It’s just life.
By starting to view a separation as an opportunity instead of a loss you can learn to trust yourself more, and the process of life.
Separation and grief
It is also useful to be aware of the classic stages of grief that can arise from a separation:
- Anger and resentment
You will go through these stages many times, over and over again, until you learn what it is you need to let go of. These stages are also present during any loss we experience in life and when relationships change.
It takes time, but a new, improved life is often the reward IF you are willing do the work. This can be hard and painful at first but it can be fulfilling when a new and often stronger identity is born. Ultimately, it will also make you a better partner next time around and a better parent in the meantime.
Mindful separation: learning to let go
The first step is learning to let go of your old ‘story’, because it doesn’t exist anymore, and it doesn’t serve you anymore.
My advice to help you through it: focus on the present with some simple ‘mindfulness techniques’ as well as some expert separation guidance. It can really help you catch your negative thought patterns before they tip into a downward spiral. Remember also to stay in the moment and BREATHE. And keep breathing. The key mindful separation words are ‘awareness’ and ‘acceptance’. It is good to keep practising these until they become a habit.
It is perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed, confused, and anxious in the first stages of a separation. I encourage all of my clients to look first at themselves, not the other person, and to try and avoid playing the blame game. By taking responsibility for your own life first, you will find that you start to reap what you sow in life and in relationships and then realise it is not about failing or the need to feel ashamed at all.
Becoming more aware
Here are some initial questions to ponder to help you become more aware:
- What are your biggest fears around the separation?
- Do you have an adequate support network in place?
- Is there more you can read on the topic?
The next step forward is of course to take ACTION. Engaging a mindful separation consultant or other coach/counsellor can be very helpful. Who you see at the outset can really make all the difference.
And always remember to breathe, trust, and accept what ‘is’ and to view your separation as a tool to help you learn where it is you need to go.
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